Take it to Kourt: Hamilton on teaching to the test

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Kourtnee Hamilton, Copy Editor

In current school systems, it seems that test scores are the most important part of education. Along with this comes the subject of teaching to the test to ensure higher scores.

These numbers not only show how well a teacher does his or her job, but the scores, if they are mostly in the higher range, thrust a school to the top of the educational food chain.

Scores earned from Advanced Placement (AP), Indiana Standardized Testing for Educational Progress Plus (ISTEP+)  and End of Course Assessment (ECA) tests demonstrate the effectiveness of a school system and teachers themselves according to the state’s method of computing ratings.

When enrolling in an AP course in high school, students typically suspect that the course will be rigorous and fast-paced with loads of homework and tests that require weeks of advanced studying to earn a passing grade.

However, what these fearful students find is that, lesson by lesson, they are learning exactly what will be on the AP exams in May, not to mention the unit tests they take periodically throughout the course.

Though this is helpful to raise the test scores earned by students in AP courses, why not teach to the test in regular courses?

In elementary school, ISTEP+ testing measures a child’s understanding of basic concepts in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.

However, even though the test is stressed greatly by teachers, students are not taught specifically what will be on the ISTEP+ exam, but rather similar concepts.

The scores earned in the specific areas determine what level students will be placed into the following year, be it remedial, regular, or advanced classes.

Even when it comes to the algebra I and English 10 ECAs that students must pass in order to graduate high school, teachers do not focus on lessons specific to these tests.

If a student does not pass, they are placed in remedial math and English courses and are required to retake the test each year until they earn a passing grade.

AP testing is not mandatory. Students who opt to acquire anything below an academic honors diploma are not required to take any AP courses or take the corresponding exams in order to graduate.

If a student chooses an academic honors diploma, they are only required to earn four AP credits and take two corresponding exams.

Any tests taken in addition to the mandatory two are not necessary to meet graduation requirements.

Teaching to the test to prepare students for the AP exams when they are not mandatory for graduation seems unncessary.

The score that a student earns on the exam does not reflect whether or not they pass the AP course.

Also, students only need to earn a score of a three or above if they desire to gain college credit.

Additionally, in order to take these AP exams each May, students must sign up to take them by a set deadline as well as pay a fee, whereas ISTEP+ and ECA testing dates are decided ahead of time with no registration deadlines or fees.

Why is it teaching to the test only occurs in regards to optional tests? It seems irrational to ensure high test scores only from exams that are not necessarily required throughout a school career.

If a school system really wants to stand out above its rivals, teaching to the test should be implemented in regular courses in addition to AP.

Not everyone has the skills necessary to apply general concepts to a more difficult idea or question. Often on tests, multiple concepts will be combined in one question. Not every student has the ability to figure out the problems when they do not practice with questions that are similar to those that will be on the tests.

Not all students are excellent test takers. Teaching to the test in all courses, no matter what level, would greatly improve test scores across the board and would help students earn the passing grades they need.